I often wonder what it would be like if we all reflected on our hopes and dreams — traced them from their birth through the string of investment we put into them, the burden of outcome we place on them, and the value we place on ourself and our intentions. Isn’t it human tendency to become so engrossed in this journey that we fail to realise we have no final destination in place?
Think about the amount of resources that have been spent by humans into achieving things that are either never accomplished or that become obsolete quickly. These temporal goals and fleeting desires always see their end, only to beget new goals and desires; they create a sense of purpose, yet they all lead nowhere… Every year, a new phone is released, making the previous models undesirable, but there is no destination as to what the perfect phone is — just the constant need to one-up the previous version.
I tend to think that all this work we occupy our minds with ends up just being a coping mechanism to deal with the futility of life. The song All Glory be to Christ opens with the words:
Should nothing of our efforts stand
No legacy survive
Unless the Lord does raise the house
In vain the builders strive
These lines point us to Psalm 127 where the Psalmist alludes to the busy man — constantly working, always anxious, never satisfied. Does this not remind us of the world we live in? I myself have spent years working, thinking and dreaming of things that have never lived up to my expectations. Whenever I saw any sign of a dream coming true, I would be disappointed by how different it was from what I imagined. It left me discouraged as I remembered the hours and emotions I invested into the things I desired the most. In my head, those efforts alone validated my desire for their success. So I waited, and waited, and waited for success to come — but it never did, and if it did, it disappointed.
The discouragement I speak of is an inner emptiness that is mentioned and often highlighted in the Scriptures. The book of Ecclesiastes speaks of a Preacher who set out to find meaning in life had to offer and came home from his journey, frustrated. All he learnt was that all human pursuit suffers the same fate: death. Whether poor or rich, influential or sidelined, all flesh fades like the grass of the field, only to be replaced when a new season comes. The songwriter of the hymn we’re looking at points to this:
To you who boast tomorrow’s gain,
Tell me what is your life?
A mist that vanishes at dawn…
But perhaps none has spoken more meaningfully of this futility than the great prophet Moses, the man to whom God appeared (Exodus 3:2), whose face shone with the radiance of God (Exodus 34:30), and who brought God’s law to the people. Moses was no stranger to the weariness and vanity that the Preacher in Ecclesiastes spoke of. Executing God’s law to judge the whole nation of Israel could not have been an easy or satisfying job. He wandered with them for 40 years in the scorching desert, and witnessed the deaths of many during that time. I feel for Moses the most when he finally brings the people within sight of the land God has promised them — yet, because of his own sin, he was not allowed to enter the promised land for which he’d worked so hard. How dismayed he must have been!
All the frustrated Preacher learnt at the end of his journey to find meaning in life was that all human pursuit suffers the same fate: death
Moses wrote Psalm 90 — the lament and recognition of the condition of man in light of God’s great countenance and everlasting majesty. In verse 3, he says: “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”
What a remarkable truth to those of us who are caught up with the motions (or the lack thereof) of life: to know that we are to return to the dust when our time on earth is complete. And yet, the time we are given is not free from trouble, as Moses points out in verse 10: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Such is our condition and such it will be till the day we die.
Indeed, this is the way the story could have ended. There would be no wrong done by God to let our stories unfold as such. The curse of the dust was not brought on by beings that were fully devoted and enthralled by the goodness and grace of God. It fell on Adam and Eve who were not pleased with what was given to them and desired more. Thinking they were kept from receiving greater joy and glory, they wanted to be God. In their ambition and desire, they forgot that every other tree in the garden was for them, that every animal had been placed under their rule, that there was no contest to their dominion on earth. In the deceitful spark of sin’s allure, all other blessings became as darkness.
Yet, the story does not end there. For no sooner were they cursed than God began a great story of redemption. The day that He judged the first sinners was the day He began to save people from His judgment. Every story, every theme thereafter, was about how God was planning to redeem His people so He could live among them once again, and was working to sustain His people till that day came.
As Moses writes in verses 14-15: “Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.” All Glory Be To Christ also alludes to how God still loves and thinks of those who are thirsty and have been affected by the curse.
Let living water satisfy
The thirsty without price
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
All glory be to Christ
God’s plans are not like ours. We plan for things that do not ultimately satisfy and aim for things that have no real end, but God’s plans always point to a destination that is the end of all things — His glory. His glory is the reason for which all things exist; put otherwise, the whole universe exists to give glory to our God. God exists for the glory of God. We see this beautifully in Moses’ story.
We aim for things that have no real end, but God’s plans always point to a destination that is the end of all things — His glory
After he was crushed by his earthly aim and its disappointment, he died. But later, we see that he ended up seeing an end to all that he had done — the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (Matthew 17:3). How overwhelmingly satisfying it must have been for Moses to meet Jesus face to face — and yet that is the promise that is promised to all those who believe in Him, who believe that it is by His loving sacrifice that we are saved from the futility and curse of this world into eternal life with Him. Is that not a great end to each of our stories? To do what we were made to do, with the One through whom we were made, giving glory to Jesus Christ? This is the destination that is spoken of in the last verse of the song:
Behold our God shall live with us
And be our steadfast light
And we shall e’er His people be
All glory be to Christ
The beauty of this truth must drive us to sing the chorus to this song with such joy! But we often cannot because we forget our hope, we forget this promise, only to be sucked into our routines and our daily toil. Let us not be tempted to couple our faith with our dying dreams and dwindling lives. The work of our hands will always perish. It is the nature of this world for all things in it to pass away. But the faith that we have, unlike the houses we make with our hands, is a house not made with hands — it is a house that has been raised by the Perfecter of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is for Him we work now, not for the things of this world. And in Him, we need not fret about the curse falling upon us, leaving us helpless and hungry and without hope. We have rerouted the path of our vessel, signed away the worth we placed on our own efforts and legacies, and now journey toward a sure hope. Whether we measure the winds by which we sail there, or strengthen ourselves to row against currents that fight against us, we can now, filled with hope, say with Moses: Establish the work of our hands upon us, yes, establish the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17). And with the songwriter, sing:
All glory be to Christ our King
All glory be to Christ
His rule and reign we’ll ever sing
All glory be to Christ
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.